I started August with a few seemingly random thoughts about the month. Now, as we prepare to say goodbye to the eighth month of 2021, here are a few more thoughts, and some concerns, but this time they are a lot less disjointed, and there is a common thread running thought them.
This Bank Holiday Weekend sees the resumption of the twice yearly, beer festivals at the Halfway House, Brenchley. For obvious reasons, no festivals were held during 2020, and whilst I believe a rather slimmed-down event did take place this late May Bank Holiday, this weekend’s event is a return to the full-on festivals the HWH is renowned for.
Did I go? No. Was I tempted? Definitely yes, as even though I’ve rather fallen out of love with such events, the festival would have provided the chance to meet up and socialise with friends and acquaintances, many of whom I haven’t seen for 18 months or so.What’s more, the local CAMRA Branch billed the even as their first official, post-lockdown get-together, and whilst I’m no longer a Campaign member, I do like to keep abreast of what’s going on, especially on a local basis. My reasons for missing out on the
chance of a much needed catch-up, relate to our impending late summer holiday. In 12 days’ time, Mrs PBT’s and I are embarking on a four night cruise on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth. Sailing from Southampton, the cruise will not be leaving UK territorial waters, but after rounding Land’s End, will sail up the Irish Sea to Liverpool. The vessel will then dock, allowing passengers time for a brief look around the city, before sailing back to Southampton.
The cost of the cruise was met from credit accrued from last year’s
cancelled voyage to Hamburg, and it is a break that both of us are very much looking forward to. Given the adverse effect that Covid-19 had on the cruise industry, at the start of the pandemic, the operator is taking no chances, so as well as requiring masks to be worn, in all indoor communal areas, passengers are required to take a lateral-flow test, for Coronavirus, prior to boarding.
And there lies the rub, because although we will receive a full refund, if either of us are refused boarding, due to a positive test, it would still put the mockers on things – and that’s putting it bluntly. It’s a risk we don’t want to take, and whilst I wouldn’t normally, be quite so cautious, the last thing I want is the cancellation of a long anticipated, and much needed holiday. Cunard advise passengers to avoid potential Covid hot spots, such as large indoor gatherings, for two weeks prior to sailing, just for their own peace of mind, so because of this, you can perhaps understand my reluctance to attend the HWH beer festival. Yes, I know it’s an outdoor event, and the chances of me becoming infected are low, even though nationally infections rates remain high, but at the moment I intend to play safe, so that we can climb that gangplank in confidence, next month. The real concern, and one that has been swept under the carpet, is infection rates for Covid-19, remain stubbornly high. They have been running at around 30,000 new cases per day for several weeks now; a level ought to be ringing alarm bells. Instead, Covid-19 seems no longer newsworthy, eclipsed first by the Olympics, and now by the debacle surrounding Afghanistan.
Should we be experiencing these sorts of levels, given the undoubted success of the vaccination programme? Infection rates, per 100,000 of population, are far higher than this time last year, which if you think back was a period when many people, including many in the government, thought the worst of the pandemic was behind us.
No one doubts the effectiveness of getting most of us “double-jabbed,” but if the recent experience of Israel is anything to go by, we should be proceeding far more cautiously. Was it sensible to drop all restrictions, for the sake of a grandiose political gesture? (Johnson’s so-called, and much-vaunted “Freedom Day.”). Would it not have made sense to have least kept certain relatively low-level control measures in place?
I’m talking here about continuing to wear masks in crowded indoor situations, such as supermarkets or whilst using public transport, along with maintaining sensible social distancing and adequate ventilation. I am not talking about re-imposing restrictions on sectors such as hospitality and travel, and I am definitely not advocating another lock-down!
Israel is currently having to reintroduce such measures, even with a vaccine take-up that rivals our own, so have we, like the Israelis, been lulled into a false sense of security by the vaccine?
I really dislike wearing a mask, but without sounding like Mr & Mrs Goody Two-shoes, both Mrs PBT’s and I have continued doing so whilst in supermarkets, as well as on buses and trains. Several work colleagues are doing the same, as is our son Matthew. He works in retail, and whilst mask wearing is no longer mandatory in his store, he feels more secure in doing so, especially as he is still waiting for his second jab.
Two other people I know have adopted the same pre-holiday cautionary approach as us. They are about to fly off on well-earned breaks, and don’t want to be prevented from doing so by showing positive, on a pre-flight lateral-flow Covid test.
South Manchester based blogger Phil, adopts a far more cautionary approach in the latest post on his very readable, and well-presented, Oh Good Ale blog. Titled, Is it safe? Phil doesn’t think so and remains singularly unimpressed with the irreversible nature of the government’s “no going back” approach.
He goes into far more detail on the current situation than I have and makes the good point that what happened with the Alpha (Kent) variant, has happened all over again with the Delta one. He adds that had we nothing more to worry about than the original Wuhan version of Corona, the country would probably be Covid-free by now.
I’m going to leave the matter there for the time being, as unlike Phil I am not going to fret unduly over what may or may not happen. I would say though, that a little more thought and a lot more common sense would go along way to enure that we come out of this situation in a good place, rather than letting the whole cycle repeat itself.
Consequently I intend to continue with a sensible, cautionary and pragmatic approach, even if this does
mean not re-engaging with activities and events quite as much as I would
otherwise wish – at least not until I have next month’s cruise under my belt.